Category Archives: Goals

Writing Between Once Upon a Time & The End

After I finished writing the first draft of my latest novel, I thought I had succeeded in crafting a new genre.

How unaware I was of the dangerous second draft.

Upon rereading the manuscript, I noticed the story fell apart in the middle, although the ending was exceedingly strong. My intention was only to fix the glue between “Once upon a Time” and “The End.”

After editing the first 100 pages, I hit the middle. The sludge depressed me. How was I going to make sense of the mess? The characters had evolved, but not consistently. The conflict had escalated, but unrealistically. The complications were more complicated, but required charts, graphs, and a Power Point presentation to understand it.

Luckily, my daughter came to the rescue. She sat down with me one evening and asked me why my mood reflected the rain clouds in the overcast sky. I confided how I was mired in the middle of my story.

“What should I do?” I asked.

My daughter thought it over. “If I was the main character, I would go to my best friend.”

It seemed like such a simple action, but it cut through the dense confusion that I almost cried from relief.

Immediately, 50 pages disappeared from the manuscript. I started writing where my daughter suggested and a whole new middle unfolded effortlessly.

By the time I reached the third act, the characters had evolved and the conflict needed a new resolution. What was I going to do? I loved the original ending. It was strong. It was unconventional. But it no longer worked.

I had to write a new ending.

Is the second draft perfect? Hardly. But it is one step closer on the road toward publication.

The Search for an Agent

2015 BelieveAfter self-publishing two novels, selling a novel and a short story collection to small presses, and winning a nationwide contest to have my memoir published, I am again seeking a literary agent to represent me in my next project: a contemporary romance.

I finished the manuscript with my daughter in 2014. I resurrected the search for an agent after receiving unfavorable offers directly from two publishers and being unable to successfully negotiate a fair contract for all.

Since I started querying agents, I’ve had a few rejections. The ones filled with kind words keep my spirits up and my stamina strong.

My favorite rejection came from a literary agent who reviewed and responded to my extensive fiction proposal that included not only the standard cover letter, synopsis, and first three chapters, but also a biographical summary of who I am and what I’ve accomplished to a detailed marketing plan and competitive analysis with other titles in the same genre. The agent said, “I found it (the manuscript) fun, the pacing nice, and the main character likeable, but unfortunately I am looking for a more tightly formulated romance right now.”

Not tightly formulated? No problem. A publisher in the United Kingdom wrote, “Don’t give up—it only takes one publisher, one day, at the right moment.” I’m hoping that saying also applies to finding the right literary agent.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing that non-formula anti-romance that I know no one will want to represent unless they have the courage to fight for a new genre.

The Next Project

During my book tour, people asked, “What’s your next project?” I was honest, bouncing around some ideas I had and my conflicted feelings about committing to a larger work before I was ready.

Now that the tour has ended, I’ve painted a few paintings and written a few poems but again I wake up in the middle of the night and ask myself, “What’s your next project?”

I’ve thought about the thriller I need to rewrite, the one that was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the one in which I didn’t know how to proceed but now have the knowledge to continue. I’ve also thought about the romance I need to edit, the one that every editor and agent said was a solid idea, poorly executed. Could I work on that?

And then there is the exhaustion that comes after one projected has ended. How much time do you allow yourself before apathy creeps in and takes hold? Is one week enough? One month? Or do I need more time to recover?

I don’t have any answers to any of these questions, only more questions upon questions. That’s why I wake up every night and wonder how I will begin. That’s why I try to go back to sleep, to dream and rest and find that sense of sanity I lost when I was writing, promoting, and traveling.

And that’s how stories always begin. When I am not looking for that next project, the project seems to find me. It starts as one word, then another, until I have another manuscript unfolding in my hands. That’s when I’ll look up and say, “I know what my next project is.”

How to Increase Productivity

This guest blog is written by Mat Veni. Mat Veni is a life hacker, not a hero. His do-it-yourself toolkit to stop procrastination can be found at You Tube.

I’m not in the right mood right now. I don’t feel well. I’m tired working all day. It would be easier to do it on the weekend. . .next month. And next month leads to the month called never-month.

Procrastination isn’t just a distraction or a kind of laziness. It’s often the choice that I’ll do it better if I do it later. Or I’ll do it later because it’s too important to do it poorly.

I have tens of arguments on why I won’t do it now. And they are all excellent. Truly are. Oh, come on, they are excuses because I don’t have a will to work on big tasks, or something that requires me to dig deeply.

I can easily say I need to check my emails, see what’s happening on social media sites, keep current on breaking news or the check out what’s new in sports. I also need to know what the weather is going to be and, of course, I need to take a break and get something to eat. And when I’m done with that, something new will have broken in the news. And here we go again. What are some of your favorite excuses?

So procrastination is about the ‘not right moment.’ But in short, the ‘right’ moment doesn’t exist.

There are plenty of ways to avoid distractions. I can switch off the TV, disconnect the Internet, and turn off my phone, but I can still find a way to switch to the ‘do it later’ tool. So I need something to remind me what is best for me, what I truly want. I don’t want to be a 100% totally unproductive guy.

Yes, I understand my brain needs boredom. It needs to relax and make decisions later. I’m ok with that. I’m also fine with some distractions that might help me increase my knowledge and react differently and maybe become even more productive tomorrow.

But it’s not all right with me if the procrastination lasts forever. I can be patient, but I want things to be done.

How to limit procrastination:

1. You must know what you want and when you want it.

Even if I don’t like to set goals, I need to define what it is I want and the timeframe in which I want it. Without a clear destination and deadline, I will never take the minor steps toward accomplishment.

2. Know what motivates you.

I need something that internally drives me. Otherwise, I soon realize I will get nowhere.
I use simple reminders of my motivation:
– Colored stickers. Red is passion. Blue is calm. Green is productivity. Yellow is happiness.
– Quotes. They are simple and quick to read and powerful enough to remind me of where I want to go.
– Accountability partner. It’s a great method to share your problems with someone else who shares a similar goal. You can remind each other of your motivation and encourage each other to continue on the journey even when you want to procrastinate.

3. You need to be organized and record your journey.

I prefer to keep an old fashioned notebook with me to list each step I’ve taken towards achieving my goals. There are also tons of free apps you can download onto your smart phone to help track your journey. I’ve used both, but I prefer the physicality of holding a book in my hands.

How do you ‘fight’ against the never ending battle with procrastination?

Sacrifice for Success

Sacrifice

The other day, my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?”

I had just announced I would be missing another family function in order to audition for a radio spot that would air in October to promote my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. Since January, I had been pitching articles, essays, videos, appearances, and speaking engagements in anticipation of snagging prime spots to showcase the book in the hopes of increasing the number of pre-orders and garnering more sales.

Of course, my husband didn’t understand. I hadn’t publicized my other books outside of social media and local appearances. But after discussing my goals with my publisher, I decided to hire a publicist and expand my marketing efforts beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing. My family cringed when I announced how much time and money I planned to devote to this book. My husband said, “We need a new car!” My daughter asked, “How am I going to afford college?” My son, who can’t talk, didn’t say anything. But if he could, I’m sure he would have protested too.

No one knows the magic formula that causes one book to rise to the best seller list and another book to remain unknown. Publishing experts offer advice, but the truth remains a mystery. Otherwise, the formula would be replicated without fail.

My family knew I was gambling, placing a bet on something that may or may not pay off. But a lot of the risks we take in life are gambles, including the biggest risk of all: falling in love. Exposing yourself to another human being with the chance of being hurt and disappointed doesn’t stop most people from taking the first step to connect.

So when my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?” I responded, “Whatever it takes for however long it takes.”

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Neither does love. Or anything else that’s worth the sacrifice.

A Look Ahead to 2015

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“A goal is nothing more than a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Usually I take a moment to set goals for the upcoming year. However, after a grueling year of too much work and not enough play and too much stress and not enough relaxation, the last thing I want to do is endure another set of to-dos on top of the ones I already have outlined for me by others.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have any goals or dreams or New Year’s Resolutions. It means I don’t want to commit to the same structure I have been accustomed to using. No list on the back of the front door with each task clearly marked with a deadline. No dream boards floating above my keyboard. It’s already too much having a calendar clearly marked with essential items to complete, both professionally and personally, each day of the year.

But if I look at my overall goals, they boil down into two general categories: professional and personal. My professional goals can be further broken down into my different jobs and what I hope to accomplish from each this year. My personal goals can be broken down into my interpersonal relationships, my spiritual relationships, and my relationship with myself.

In my writing life, I would like to find an appropriate publisher for my sweet romance, Just Juliet, and I would like to have a successful launch for my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. I’m not committing to any other writing projects at the moment, although I have plenty to tackle if I decide to change my mind.

In my personal life, I would like to express my appreciation through each interaction I have, no matter how brief or seemingly insignificant each encounter might be. I feel it’s imperative that I take each thought, action, and feeling both with the curiosity and joy of a newborn and the gravity and depth of someone near death for it is only through an awareness of the ephemeral that we may touch upon the eternal.

How are you approaching 2015? Click on the “Comment” next to the title and a box will appear for you to express your thoughts. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.